Liquefied gas – often abbreviated to LNG – should ensure Germany’s supply even without Russian gas. But this is again accompanied by dubious dependencies, also with the necessary tankers. Only China can deliver that.

No more Russian gas, one way or another: Russia has not been delivering gas to Germany since the beginning of September, according to data from the Federal Network Agency. At the same time, Germany wants to end its once enormous dependence on Russian raw materials. The alternative should be LNG – Liquefied Natural Gas, which is to be delivered by tankers.

But while cooperation with an autocratic country is being terminated, Germany is developing new, equally dubious dependencies for the precious liquid gas. An example is Qatar. The emirate on the Persian Gulf repeatedly makes negative headlines due to human rights violations – especially before the upcoming World Cup there.

But Qatar has immense gas reserves that, in liquefied form, will in future also be used to heat German households and power German factories. The purchase of the gas itself is only one of these new dependencies. When it comes to transport, too, Germany will have to tie itself to a state whose economic ties with the Federal Republic are currently being viewed critically – China.

This is currently evident in the debate about the planned entry of the Chinese state shipping company Cosco at a Hamburg port terminal. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is sympathetic to the deal, while the coalition partners, above all the Green Economics Minister Robert Habeck, but also security authorities and the EU Commission have expressed serious concerns.

The unanimous warnings: the influence of China – which is being led in an increasingly authoritarian manner by President Xi Jinping – must be limited. The sale, according to Habeck, contained “potential for blackmail”.

Otherwise, you probably won’t be able to avoid China, as the “WirtschaftsWoche” is now showing. Because for the planned LNG supply, many more tankers are needed. But the shipyards outside of China where such tankers can be built are already overwhelmed with orders.

At the moment, according to the “WirtschaftsWoche”, there are only 570 LNG carriers worldwide. The gas industry is therefore ordering 150 new ships in 2022, after only 78 freighters in the previous year. Overall, there are currently orders for 252 new ships in the order books of the shipyards. Because the Nord Stream pipelines are now at a standstill or did not even go into operation, 170 more ships would be needed, according to the newspaper, referring to the Parisian ship broker BRS.

But there is not enough capacity for that. The docks at the Daewoo, Hyundai and Samsung shipyards in South Korea are already full of semi-finished ships. The manufacturers could build fewer container ships and more LNG tankers. But it’s not that easy, a broker from Singapore told WirtschaftsWoche: “To simply say that I’m now producing fewer container ships and more LNG tankers is very dangerous for the global economy.”

The prices also show how in demand liquid gas ships are. Since 2019, the price has increased by 60 million, or 30 percent, to currently $250 million. Earliest delivery date for a freshly ordered ship: 2025, more likely 2027.

The shipyards outside of South Korea, which could possibly still serve the enormously increased demand, are located in the two cities of Jiangnan and Hudong-Zhonghua, both near Shanghai. Other Chinese shipyards want to enter the business with the popular tankers.

According to industry experts, whether the capacities will ultimately be built up and used depends on whether the Chinese state is interested, according to the “WirtschaftsWoche”. This could force the shipyards in Jiangnan and Hudong-Zhonghua, locations of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, to also leave their know-how to other shipyards.

However, satellite images indicate that the Chinese are definitely interested in the business: the number of liquid gas carriers that have been built in parallel in these shipyards over the past three to four years has continued to rise. The same applies to the market share of the Chinese shipyards.

Germany is therefore dependent on China for a secure supply of liquid gas in the future. There is no possibility of switching to former ship specialists such as France or Japan. These countries gave up the market in favor of South Korea – and according to the “WirtschaftsWoche” no longer have the necessary knowledge to build LNG freighters. China does. The shipyards in China have been building the popular ships since 2008.